A high-ranking officer in Colombia’s ELN rebel group, the second largest on the country, was captured while watching the World Cup on cable TV, national media reported Saturday.
Alfredo Hernandez, alias “Mocho” or “Elkin,” was the alleged leader of the ELN’s “Luis Jose Solano Sepulveda” Front and had been hiding from authorities for years before being arrested in a comfortable home in northern Colombia, where he had installed a cable antenna to watch the 2014 World Cup on TV, according to reports by the El Tiempo and El Espectador newspapers.
Investigators say that an informant alerted police to Hernandez’s arrival at his house in the state of Bolivar, reporting that the suspect had brought several days of supplies, including liquor. breaking the ELN guerilla’s usual routine of constantly moving to avoid authorities.
With this information, a command group surrounded the wooded area around the guerilla’s rural home. There they surprised Hernandez, who had no alternative but to surrender.
The informant, a member of Hernadez’ security team, told police he decided to collaborate with investigators after becoming “dissatisfied” with how his bosses spent money gained from kidnapping and extortion.
“Hernandez wasted money on eccentricities,” said the guerrilla-turned-police source. “He paid for women to be brought from Magdalena Medio (in eastern Antioquia), expensive liquor, and large parties.”
In addition to being wanted for kidnapping, Hernandez is also to answer for attacks against against seven policemen in southern Bolívar on May 10.
Police say the capture of Hernandez will deal a hard blow to ELN finances in the region, where the guerrilla allegedly controlled 60% of the group’s illegal mining and mining extortion operations. Security agency reports say that illegal mining can produce 23,000 grams of gold per month, and extortion is ELN’s main source of funding.
The ELN, or National Liberation Army, last year released a Canadian geologist they had kidnapped earlier in the year, effectively removing what the government considered the remaining obstacle for talks.
President Santos announced the beginning of negotiations with Colombia’s second largest guerrilla group just five days before the election run-off.
Today’s elections will decided the fate of peace talks between the government and leftist guerillas, aiming to end 50 years of armed conflict in Colombia. While President Santos has made his political career on the negotiations, which began in 2012, his hard-line rival Oscar Zuluaga is a ferocious critic of the peace process.
Zuluaga won by 29% in the first round of presidential elections, with Santos trailing at 25%. The race has been so tight that recent polls are not able to predict an outcome.